Councillor gets standing ovation for powerful speech
ONE OF the region's most well-known and treasured community members has been recognised at a state awards ceremony last night for her contribution to the the town she loves.
South Burnett Deputy Mayor Kathy Duff was awarded the prestigious Butch Lenton Memorial Bush Council Innovation Award at this year's Local Government Association Conference in Cairns.
Cr Duff said she was delighted to have won the accolade because it recognised the pragmatic approach of people in the bush.
"The award pays tribute to the people of Proston who came together as a community with the goal to revitalise the town by buying the shops in the town's centre," Cr Duff said.
Councillor Ros Heit said Cr Duff was an obvious choice for the award and was proud to have nominated her.
"Cr Duff was the driving force behind the Proston Community Revival Project," Cr Heit said.
"The story of Proston is like so many small country towns who face the daily struggle to survive."
After the closure of the railway line and the butter factory in the 1970s, the town centre faced a slow decline which included the closure of shopfronts.
"In 2018, Cr Duff and the Proston Round Table discussion group explored the idea of buying and refurbishing the building to attract new businesses and community shops to the town," Cr Heit said.
"While they found it was a feasible idea and the building was capable of being refurbished to more contemporary standards, they were unable to raise the necessary cash to buy the property.
"However, things changed when Deputy Mayor Kathy Duff received an inheritance from her friend and former Southern Downs Regional councillor, the late Cr Jamie Mackenzie."
Cr Mackenzie died by suicide in February 2016, and in his will he included a bequest to Cr Duff.
Cr Duff donated the money to Proston Men's Shed, which allowed it to purchase seven of the shops in the town's main street.
On receiving the award Cr Duff spoke about Cr Jamie Mackenzie and the tragedy of rural suicides, for which she received a standing ovation at the conference.
"There is still a lot of water to flow under the bridge in Proston," Cr Heit said.
"The initiative by Cr Kathy Duff and the community, together with the legacy of Cr Jamie Mackenzie gives the town a fighting chance."
The Butch Lenton Award recognises the innovative contribution to Queensland made by Graeme 'Butch' Lenton as Mayor of Winton Shire Council.
Butch, who died in 2017, spent more than 20 years, first as a councillor, then as mayor, pursuing his unique vision for the region in which he was born and raised.